10 August 2015
Mosaics such as the one above, in the Chora Church in Istanbul, Turkey, show some of the richness of Byzantine tradition. To learn more about the art depicted here, and the glorious mosaics of Byzantium, check out “Shimmering Glory: Byzantine Mosaics” from the Winter 2013 edition of ONE. (photo: Sean Sprague)
10 August 2015
The Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo — shown in this image from 2013 — says he believes ISIS militants are seeking to push Christians out of Syria.
(photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian bishop speaks out on kidnapping of Christians (Vatican Radio) The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo in Syria, Antoine Audo says he believes the so-called Islamic State fighters are seeking to push Christians out of Syria and spread terror everywhere. He also warned that if the war continues, as seems likely, that gradually over the coming months and years, all Syria’s Christians will leave their homeland. Bishop Audo was reacting to the news of the abduction of dozens of Christians including women and children from the Syrian town of Qaryatain after the ISIS militants seized control of it earlier this week. The Christians were among a total of 230 residents in the town who were kidnapped by the militants...
Pope approves decree of martyrdom for Syriac Catholic bishop (Vatican Radio) On Saturday morning, Pope Francis received Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in a private audience. In the course of the audience, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation to promulgate the decree regarding the martyrdom of the Servant of God Flavien-Michel Malké, of the Fraternity of St. Ephrem, Eparch of Gazireh of the Syrians. Bishop Flavien-Michel Malké was born in 1858 in Kalat’ül Mara, Turkey and was killed in odium fidei in Gazireh, Turkey, on 29 August 1915...
Pope announces annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has decided to set up a “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” which will be celebrated on 1 September annually. He made the announcement in a letter to the heads of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity...
Ukraine reports heavy shelling by eastern rebels (Reuters) Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels on Monday of carrying out the heaviest artillery attacks on government positions in six months and warned of signs the conflict was escalating despite a ceasefire deal. The military said 400 rebel fighters supported by tanks had attacked government forces around the village of Starohnativka, 50 km (30 miles) north of the Kiev-held port city of Mariupol. The rebels denied attacking government troops. Control of Mariupol could help the rebels form a corridor to the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine last year...
Minorities in Kurdistan push for greater political voice (Voice of America) Christian and Turkmen minority lawmakers threw their voices behind a proposal put to Kurdistan’s Constitutional Committee Monday that would set up political councils to enshrine the rights of ethnic and religious minorities and ensure their participation in the Iraqi region’s governance. Christians are often treated as second class citizens by the Kurdish majority, explained Srood Maqdasy, a Christian Member of Parliament...
A homemade church bears witness to faith in Ethiopia (The Daily Mail) The vast expanse of ramshackle wooden huts and lopsided tents has seen it christened ‘the Jungle’ by those who live there. But amongst the rubble and sand dunes of the migrant camp that has become the epicentre of the Calais crisis sits a towering structure that looks out of place due to its grandeur. Like most of the buildings that have sprung up in the campsite, the Ethiopian Orthodox church, known as ‘St. Michael’s Calais,’ was fashioned from wood and tarpaulin donated by charities or simply found as scrap. Yet the structure has become not just a symbol of community resolve, but of just how long the band of migrants are willing to bide their time in the French port to secure their passage to Britain...
7 August 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Ethiopia
A doctor checks a young patient at a dispensary supported by CNEWA in Erbil, Iraq. Read more about efforts to provide health care to displaced Iraqis here. (photo: CNEWA)
7 August 2015
An Iraqi Christian child who fled from violence in Mosul, Iraq, lies on a bed in 2014 at a church in Amman, Jordan. The world continues to be silent in the face of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, Pope Francis said. (photo: CNS/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)
Reports: ISIS has abducted dozens of Christians from Homs (BBC) Islamic State militants have abducted dozens of people, many Christian, from a Syrian town captured on Thursday from pro-regime forces, reports say. They were seized when the jihadists swept through al-Qaryatain in Homs province, monitoring groups say. Many of the Christians had fled to al-Qaryatain to escape fighting in Aleppo province to the north...
Pope condemns world silence on Iraqi refugees (CNS) The world continues to be silent in the face of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, Pope Francis said. One year after Islamic State militants drove thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yezidis out of the country, Pope Francis prayed that people around the world would be more attentive and sensitive to the reality of religious persecution and that “the international community would not stand by mute and unresponsive before such unacceptable crimes.” The Pope sent his message to Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan after the Islamic State campaign in August 2014 sent tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes in the Ninevah Plain of northern Iraq...
Ukraine launches new police force in bid to head off corruption (The Wall Street Journal) A pro-Western government that swept into power last year with a promise to end corruption has largely disappointed Ukrainians, but one of Kiev’s new programs has been an instant hit: a new police force mostly made up of people with no law-enforcement experience...
Man transforms Gaza into place of color and art (Huffington Post) In the Al Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza, residents have transformed a conflict-stricken area into a vibrant work of art. Formerly bare doors and windows are now covered in rainbow shades of paint, and pastel-colored flower pots hang down alleyways. There are swirling murals on light purple and yellow walls, and brightly colored bricks line the sidewalks. The effort in Al Zaytoun to beautify the neighborhood was the brainchild of 58-year-old resident Mohammed Al Saedi, who wanted to create a positive atmosphere. He began painting pots in his own home, but had bigger ambitions...
6 August 2015
Tags: Syria Iraq Pope Francis Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank
In this image from May, Msgr. Kozar meets a few of the displaced Iraqis who are rebuilding their lives in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)
One year after ISIS extremists stormed the villages of the Nineveh Plain in the middle of the night, driving out more than 120,000 Christians, most of those who fled remain in their places of exile. Largely due to the heroic efforts of the priests and religious sisters exiled with their community, however, panic and fear have been replaced by resilience and grace, said CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar.
“The churches are working together, Chaldean and Syriac, Catholic and Orthodox, setting up educational and catechetical programs for children; health care facilities for expectant mothers, infants and toddlers, the handicapped and the elderly; counseling for all those struggling to cope; and temporary housing to replace the tents,” he added.
“The community is beginning to display some of the daily rhythms of normality again,” reported CNEWA’s correspondent in Kurdistan, Don Duncan. “Kids are going off to school, mom is cleaning the house or preparing dinner for when they come home.” But, he added, “the male population is still chronically underemployed, domestic tensions continue to flare in households, living conditions remain cramped and disease is rampant.”
“While much dignity has been restored — thanks largely to the work of the parish priests, religious sisters and parish volunteers, most of whom are displaced themselves — displaced Christians remain in limbo, and their long-term needs are great,” said Msgr. Kozar, who accompanied the Holy See’s Cardinal Leonardo Sandri on a pastoral visit to Iraqi Kurdistan in early May.
During his many pastoral visits to displaced Christians in Iraqi Kurdistan, Lebanon and Jordan, CNEWA’s Msgr. Kozar said he is always struck by the indomitable spirit of the people he meets.
“Again and again,” he said, “I have encountered resilience and hope. They want us to know one thing: They love the Holy Father. And they are grateful for his prayers. They want us to know they remain steadfast in their faith in Jesus.
“ ‘They have taken our homes,’ ” he recalled one girl telling him, “ ‘but they will never take our faith.’ ”
In the last year, CNEWA has disbursed more than $7.2 million to assist Iraqis and Syrians — many of them Christian — displaced by extremists in the “cradle of civilization.” These funds represent the generosity of Catholics from North America and Europe and have enabled CNEWA’s on-the-ground partners, the local churches, to respond to the needs of men, women and children devastated by the agents of hate. CNEWA activities include:
- Rushing essentials to families fleeing ISIS in the Nineveh Plain and northeastern Syria. Monies purchased milk and diapers, food packages, water supplies, bedding, medicines and sanitary kits
- Securing bedding, clothing, hygienic supplies, food and water for Iraqi and Syrian Christian refugee families hosted by church communities in Jordan and Lebanon.
Health care initiatives
- Setting up, equipping and operating clinics in Erbil, Dohuk and Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan
- Subsidizing Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, which offers refugee women pre- and post-natal care
- Supporting the daily clinic at the Italian Hospital in Amman for the treatment of refugees
- Providing medical care for displaced families in Syria and refugees in Lebanon.
Educational and pastoral outreach
- Providing counseling, tutoring, catechesis and English classes to Iraqi and Syrian Christian refugee families at the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman
- Securing a social worker to assist the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in their work at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa
- Hosting summer Bible camps for refugee children in Jordan. Run by parishes and congregations of sisters, Bible camps offer children a respite from the drudgery of poverty. Camps provide counseling, catechesis and recreation
- Supporting educational programs for displaced Syrian and Iraqi children as well as assistance for refugees attending Catholic schools in Jordan.
To learn how you can be a part of CNEWA’s work in the Middle East, visit this page.
6 August 2015
Iraqi refugees gather outside their temporary dwellings in Erbil. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
It was one year ago today that ISIS launched its greatest offensive through northern Iraq, displacing tens of thousands of Christians. Don Duncan writes about that displacement and a recent visit to Erbil in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE. He offers some personal impressions below.
On this, my second trip to Iraqi Kurdistan to cover the situation of displaced Christians there, I was struck by the dynamics of displacement and the ceaseless nature of human resilience.
During my first trip, last September, the Christians who had fled the sudden onslaught of ISIS through their villages and territory just weeks prior were all heaving in a sort of mass trauma. The harsh reality of homelessness and displacement was beginning to settle in in painful waves. All this was happening as people found themselves and their families sleeping in churchyards without shelter, and later in basements of unfinished buildings, separated only by sheets of tarpaulin.
Disease was rife. Anguish was rife. Panic was rife.
The usual pillars of society — church, school, hospital and childcare — had all vanished and providers of care such as nuns, priests, teachers, and medics were all scrambling to simply stanch the crisis enough so as to find more sustainable solutions for the overwrought population.
What I have found on my return this second time to Erbil is a soul-warming display of resilience. All the sites of hellish living conditions I saw in September lie empty. Most families are now either housed in rented houses or in emergency housing trailers, much like the ones used by FEMA in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck. While living conditions are less than ideal, the edge of panic and woe seems to have lifted somewhat. The population, less in shock than before, is able to go about making their lives better. Nowhere is this clearer than in the infrastructure of care that has developed around the population over the past year.
Whereas a very basic level of emergency healthcare had been established by September last, in the form of three CNEWA-donated pre-fab cabins, huge gaps lay in provision of basic services for a population badly in need.
Now, in big measure because of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena, the complex of schooling, healthcare, childcare and orphanage infrastructure that existed around these Christians at home, prior to their expulsion by ISIS, his being progressively restored. Temporary schools and clinics have been built and set running. An orphanage and kindergartens have been established. The community is beginning to display some of the daily rhythms of normality again: kids going off to school, mom cleaning the house or preparing dinner for when they come home.
These are the vital signs of survival, it seemed to me, of a community in peril. A community that is able to rebuild itself from the ashes is, in essence, a community that will endure and persist and this fact has brought a strong sense of hope to the displaced Christians that was simply not present last September, when so many of the people I interviewed saw the events unfurling as the last chapters in the story of Christians in Iraq.
I should stress that while the situation has improved and that this improvement is strength-giving, the overall situation is still far from ideal. The male population is still chronically under-employed, domestic tensions continue to flare in households, living conditions are still cramped and diseases are still rampant. While a vital measure of dignity has been restored, the displaced Christians are still in chronic need of yet more dignity in their living situations.
Now, it seems, the displaced Christians are getting hope and strength from the specter of the resurrection of the infrastructure of community. Many are emboldened to carry on, to move on if they have to. Or, they hope, to move back to their own towns one day and start the reconstruction of their lost homes and communities there.
A year into this crisis, the need remains great. To support those struggling to rebuild their lives in Iraq, visit our giving page. And please remember to keep these people in your prayers.
6 August 2015
Continuing a tradition stretching back to the first millennium, Orthodox Christians gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem. (photo: Paul Souders)
Almost half of the earth’s 6.8 billion people associate Jerusalem with the Divine. Christians identify Jerusalem with Jesus, revere it as the place of his passion, death and resurrection, and celebrate it as the birthplace of the church.
From the beginning, Christians have called Jerusalem the “Holy City,” a title that reveals the spiritual and political paradoxes plaguing it. Revered as a shining city on the hill, Jerusalem has come to represent conflict as it lies at the heart of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.
The city’s chief church, the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Jerusalem, has not remained above the fray. For centuries, this smallest of the ancient patriarchal churches of the East has weathered instability. Today, it includes fewer than 130,000 people — Arabs primarily — scattered throughout the Holy City, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula.
In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, an Orthodox priest pauses to pray during Holy Week. (photo: Paul Souders)
According to ancient accounts, the apostle James “the Just” guided the church of Jerusalem after Pentecost, and was stoned to death about eight years before the Roman destruction of the Temple in the year 70. After his death, 15 bishops “of the circumcision” guided the mother church until the Romans nearly annihilated the Jews and leveled what remained of Jerusalem in the year 135.
The mother church carried on, keeping alive the deeds and words of Jesus and, in 451, the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon recognized Jerusalem as a patriarchate, according its bishop a special status after Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch. The Liturgy of St. James, which developed during this period, is considered the oldest complete form of the Eucharist to have survived and is used on feast days by the churches of the Byzantine and Syriac traditions.
Pilgrims from throughout Christendom flocked to the shrines of the Holy Land even after the Muslim Arabs occupied Jerusalem in 637. The patriarch surrendered it to Omar, the successor of Muhammad, provided he left its churches untouched and allowed its Christians of all rites to worship unhindered. The caliph agreed and received the keys to the city. Though more than 13 centuries old, the Covenant of Omar remains an important legal document, outlining the rights of Christians in a Muslim state.
Centuries later, responding to calls for help from the Byzantine emperor, Crusaders from the West seized Jerusalem, returning Christian sovereignty to the city. But the Crusaders installed a Latin patriarch and displaced the incumbent Byzantine patriarch, a Greek, whose line descended from the apostolic period. Relations deteriorated further when the Latin patriarch forbade the celebration of Eastern Christian liturgies in the Holy Sepulchre. These actions further widened the rift between the “Orthodox” East and the “Catholic” West even after the Crusaders kingdom collapsed and the city reverted to Islamic control.
A pilgrim lights candles in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (photo: Paul Souders)
In 1852, the Ottoman Turkish sultan issued an order delineating the rights of the churches in the Holy Sepulchre and other holy places. He confirmed Greek Orthodox control, but granted concessions to the Armenians and the Franciscans. Scrupulous adherence to this “Status Quo” continues, but this fidelity has paralyzed dialogue and hampered restoration efforts.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has eroded the Christian community, especially the dominant Orthodox Patriarchal Church of Jerusalem. Christians once led civic, cultural and intellectual life. Today, their influence is limited, even in the centers of Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Ramallah. In 1948, about 20 percent of the people in what is today Israel and Palestine was Christian, mostly Orthodox. Today, fewer than 2 percent remain. And whereas the patriarchal church of Jerusalem once commanded the allegiance of most Christians in the Holy Land, today only about half remain in the Orthodox Church.
The revival of the Orthodox churches in Romania and Russia has bolstered the patriarchate of Jerusalem and heightened its profile, but its ultimate fate depends on a just political resolution between Israelis and Palestinians.
Click here to read the complete profile.
6 August 2015
One year ago today, 6 August 2014, ISIS stormed through the cities and villages of northern Iraq, sending thousands literally running for their lives. Among them: the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. Here, they are shown setting up housekeeping among others who have been displaced in Erbil, Iraq. Read more about the resilience and grace of the Iraqi people — one year after the invasion of ISIS — in the Summer 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
6 August 2015
In this image from May, displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community, who fled violence between ISIS and Peshmerga fighters in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, are seen at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in an area near the northern Iraqi city of Dohuk.
(photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
Remembering the invasion of Nineveh, one year later (Fides) “It was horrible. I will never forget the terror imprinted on the face of tens of thousands of people. They were convinced that Isis would have killed them.” Rami, 22 years old, is one of the Christian refugees welcomed at the Mar Elias center, a refugee camp run by the Church in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. In a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, the young man reports on that tragic night between 6 and 7 August 2014, when he and his family had to flee from Qaraqosh together with other 60,000 Christians...
Struggle continues for Yazidis (Al Monitor) Faced with the hardships of living as internally displaced persons and scarred as a community by the brutality of ISIS, many Yazidis, especially young people, appear to have lost hope in having a future in Iraq. As a result they are migrating north toward Europe. The preferred destination for many is Germany, where there is a large Yazidi community estimated at around 60,000...
Russia invites Syrian opposition coalition to Moscow (Vatican Radio) Russia has invited the main Syrian opposition group to Moscow as part of international efforts to end the civil war that has killed more than 250,000 people. The invitation also comes as Croatia is anxiously awaiting news of a kidnapped citizen threatened with death by the so-called Islamic State...
Pope creates exarchate for Syro-Malabar Catholics in Canada (CNS) Pope Francis has established an apostolic exarchate, the precursor to a diocese, for Syro-Malabar Catholics in Canada and has named their current Toronto-based chaplain, Father Jose Kalluvelil, a bishop and head of the exarchate. Announcing the appointment on 6 August, the Vatican said about 9,000 faithful of the India-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church live in Canada. They are served by 15 priests, three of whom belong to religious orders. The new exarchate will be based in Mississauga, Ontario, near Toronto...
Pope approves new bishop for Adilabad eparchy of Syro-Malabar Church (Vatican Radio) The Holy Father has approved the election of Rev. Dr. Antony Prince Panengaden, until now vicar general of the Eparchy of Adilabad and pastor of the Cathedral Parish, as the Bishop of the same eparchy of the Syro-Malabar Church, in India. The approval follows the Holy Father’s acceptance of the resignation presented by Mons. Joseph Kunnath, C.M.I. from the pastoral governance of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Adilabad, according to canon 210 §§ 1-2 of the Code of Canon law of the Oriental Churches...
5 August 2015
Children relax during a break at the kindergarten run by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena in Ain Kawa, Erbil. (photo: Don Duncan)
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the invasion of northern Iraq by ISIS — an event that displaced tens of thousands of Iraqis, many of them children. The aftershocks are still being felt.
The Summer 2015 edition of ONE has an extensive, in-depth look at what has happened to many of those displaced. An online exclusive profiles sisters caring for children:
At 8:30 a.m., a new facility for the children of displaced Iraqi families is abuzz with the sound of young voices and teachers.
From one classroom comes a singsong drone wishing the children a good morning in Arabic. “Sabah al kheir” comes the greeting, lilted at the end to suggest a question. “Sabah al noor,” the children reply, wishing their teachers a good morning in return.
In all five classrooms of the kindergarten, the day begins with the “first circle,” where teachers welcome the children, prayers are said and songs are sung. Prayers often include requests God return them to their former houses and villages, or that clothes and food be sent to those displaced Christians still living in precarious shelter.
From another classroom, melodies of Arabic nursery rhymes interspersed with ones in English can be heard. A slow, accented rendition of “One Potato, Two Potato” floats through the air at one point.
In the middle of this cacophony, Sister Ban Saeed is busy at a desk in the administrative office — a room with a curtain dividing it in two. The other half serves as the staff kitchen.
A Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena who trained as a Montessori teacher in Adrian, Michigan, and followed that with a master’s degree in early childhood education, Sister Ban is the engine behind the new kindergarten that this community of Iraqi Christians has so sorely needed since ISIS expelled them from their homes in August 2014.
“The kindergarten is a big help to families here,” she says of the school that opened on 17 March. “We are getting children out of their homes for a few hours a day. Since the displacement, most homes in fact contain two or three families, so it has been a very difficult situation. This kindergarten helps bring happiness to the children and to the parents as well.”
As with many other services, kindergarten was something most Christians had access to in their hometowns and villages across the Nineveh Plain. But since their abrupt expulsion, that entire infrastructure has disappeared. In the initial months of the crisis, the need for essentials such as shelter and health care was the central focus; now, secondary services such as education and child care are slowly beginning to return to the picture, doing much to ease the suffering and anxiety of the displaced families.
Read it all.
To support the ongoing work of the sisters helping these children, please visit our giving page. And remember to keep these people in your prayers!